Fresh tones and pat­terns

Los Angeles Times - - ARTS & BOOKS - By Ran­dall Roberts ran­dall.roberts @la­times.com Twit­ter: @liledit

Dent May “90210” (Carpark)

You need not know the High­land Park-based singer’s bio be­fore pop­ping on his new song, be­cause he lays out some ba­sics in the lyrics.

He’s open about his fi­nances, for ex­am­ple, telling a would-be lover via a bar­room pi­ano melody, strummed gui­tar and voice in the open­ing verse that he doesn’t have a lot of money, but so what? “I’m going to a party in sec­ond-hand clothes: Ad­dress 90210.”

The sec­ond verse adds to May’s back­story: “I ain’t got much to cruise to valet / But these four wheels do me OK / This Mis­sis­sippi boy sure ain’t used to this view / I come from 39202.”

Yes, like Brit­ney Spears, Wil­liam Faulkner and Tig No­taro be­fore him, May was born in the Mag­no­lia State. And like an­other re­cent L.A. trans­plant, Mac DeMarco, the young South­ern trou­ba­dour writes sin­ga­long songs filled with wit and earnest­ness. Think Bos­ton rene­gade Jonathan Rich­man or song­writer-ac­tor Loudon Wain­wright III. Wo­ven through: a dy­namic ar­range­ment that sug­gests his Pasadena neigh­bor Van Dyke Parks’ work both solo and with the Beach Boys.

The song’s cho­rus is won­der­fully evoca­tive, de­spite its brevity: “Palm trees and Cham­pagne / By swim­ming pool light / 90210 treat me good tonight,” he sings, and you can al­most see the shim­mer­ing blue wa­ter.

May has been work­ing on his so-called L.A. al­bum since he re­lo­cated. Called “Across the Mul­ti­verse,” it was recorded in his home stu­dio — but it’s hard to tell — and comes out Aug. 18.

Baths Theme from “Dream Daddy” (Game Grumps)

The artist born Will Wiesen­feld’s new track un­der the Baths moniker ar­rives in the form of a theme song for a new video game called “Dream Daddy: A Dad Dat­ing Sim­u­la­tor.”

The premise is pretty sim­ple: “A Dad Dat­ing Sim­u­la­tor is a game where you play as a Dad and your goal is to meet and ro­mance other hot Dads,” reads the game’s sales pitch. Think the clas­sic of the genre, the Sims — ex­cept you’re a di­vorced dad and af­ter mov­ing into a new neigh­bor­hood, your goal is break­ing up homes one gen­tle­manly tryst at a time.

Baths’ theme cap­tures the game’s play­ful spirit. An ear­worm if there ever was one, it’s driven by a sleek synth-pop rhythm and a vo­cal mantra — “dreeeeaaaaam daddy” — sung with the stick­i­ness of a fab­ric soft­ener jin­gle. Wiesen­feld har­mo­nizes with him­self, singing, “Who’s going to be your dream?” and “Who’s it going to be?” in the back­ground.

It’s ridicu­lously catchy. As one com­menter wrote on the SoundCloud page: “I can’t get this out of my head please send help.”

Nine Inch Nails “Add Vi­o­lence” EP (Nine Inch Nails)

Nearly three decades af­ter Trent Reznor up­ended the alt-rock world with the ag­gro-synth en­ergy of “Head Like a Hole,” the pro­ducer, la­bel head, Apple Mu­sic ex­ec­u­tive and Nine Inch Nails founder continues to craft fresh tones and pat­terns through cir­cuitry.

The five new songs that make up this ex­tended play give it the heft of a full al­bum. Like synth-rock pi­o­neer New Order’s early EP, “19811982,” it con­tains as many en­gag­ing mo­ments as lesser artists’ full-lengths.

The med­i­ta­tive four min­utes of “This Isn’t the Place” opens with a pa­tient pi­ano run that grad­u­ally gets over­whelmed by hum­ming elec­tronic noise and ma­nip­u­lated Reznor groans; when he fi­nally adds lyrics, they sug­gest a farewell. “Not Any­more” mixes sheets of dis­torted bass and gui­tar with hard rock drums. De­spite be­ing the length of a pop song, it weighs a ton.

In fact, the only track on “Add Vi­o­lence” that breaks the five-minute mark is the last one. Called “The Back­ground World,” it runs for nearly 12 mid-tempo min­utes.

“You left me here / What am I sup­posed to do? / I never dared to look in­side / Just like you told me to,” Reznor sings, and it’s hard to know if he’s talk­ing about ex­plor­ing his psy­che or a un­zip­ping a body bag. As the song pro­gresses, he grad­u­ally in­creases the ten­sion. Then he pulls back and starts an ob­long, rhyth­mi­cally chal­lenged loop that at first lis­ten sounds like a cor­rupted file. But slight vari­a­tions sug­gest oth­er­wise, and as the song sur­passes the 10minute mark, the beats have been sup­planted with gritty noise.

Ian Til­gh­man

SOUTH­ERN BOY Dent May writes sin­ga­long songs full of wit and earnest­ness.

John Craw­ford

NINE INCH NAILS, with At­ti­cus Ross, left, and Trent Reznor, en­gage on EP.

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